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  1. Letters to the Editor

Saturday's letters: Florida leaders failing the environment

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., could not have put it better in his column when he expressed dismay that a tri-state compact for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint basin to rescue our oyster industry "remains elusive." His support for "using every tool at our disposal to correct the poor management of these water flows" is laudable. But this political show doesn't hide Rubio's myopia and that of Gov. Rick Scott and his "streamlined" Department of Environmental Protection as Florida's own policies continue to push the flow of our freshwater springs and rivers toward extinction.

Both Scott and Rubio lament the "livelihoods shattered by a purely man-made disaster," yet each fails to recognize Florida's own treatment of its environment and the disastrous economic consequences that result. Florida's water is the jewel in the crown of sunshine and beaches that supports tourism, fisheries and our unique ecosystems. Yet our iconic springs and rivers are in serious decline by any measure, and Florida is doing little more than looking the other way.

Florida is firing those who won't toe the line to streamline the water permitting that is sucking our aquifer dry, and it is failing to acknowledge the emergency and bring all parties to the table to solve it.

Scott and his well-placed minions believe we can build our way out of this with expensive infrastructure projects like desalination. That thinking is unacceptable as Florida grows. A serious stakeholder group from agriculture, industry, science, environmental advocacy and citizens should be convened now to stop the bleeding. As Rubio said, "It is time for this issue to be resolved once and for all."

Cathy Harrelson, Gulf Restoration Network, St. Petersburg

Common Core

Standards plus creativity

We must strike a balance.

As a student in the International Baccalaureate program in Hillsborough County, I understand and appreciate the national standards the Common Core State Standards initiative brings to our school system. In the IB program, each student is evaluated against international standards, and the diploma one receives upon successful completion is internationally accredited. My final IB Spanish exam, for example, will be the same test another IB student in Germany also studying Spanish would take. The standardization allows universities and employers, both in the United States and abroad, to know our students have a benchmark educational foundation.

I also agree with the Badass Teachers Association. Creativity is a fundamental component of a child's development, not only as a student but also as an individual. We must educate our youth and inspire them through innovative methods to become our future leaders.

I find that our education system often uses a didactic approach to teaching. I suggest we incorporate creative teaching techniques into standardized education to challenge and inspire students to not only learn the Common Core curriculum, but also to apply their knowledge to develop novel ideas that will cure diseases, develop sustainable energy sources, and feed our starving.

Aleesha Mundra, Tampa

BP oil spill dangers persisting | Aug. 22, editorial

No spill oil found in bay

Although your recent editorial and article on a University of South Florida water contamination study noted that the researchers "hedged" their findings and acknowledged explanations other than the Deepwater Horizon accident, the study has several basic flaws that must be pointed out.

Unlike extensive sampling by NOAA and various government agencies using established testing and lab protocols, which found no evidence of oil from the Macondo well in Tampa Bay, the USF study relied on a sampling device not designed for use in this manner and developed a small data set that appears to contain numerous false-positive readings for Macondo oil. The study also ignores other potential sources of oil and makes no reference to the documented existence of other oil sources in Tampa Bay long before the Deepwater Horizon accident.

There is a vast body of research that refutes the hypothesis put forth by these researchers, and your readers deserve to know those facts.

During the Deepwater Horizon response, a multi-agency team of scientists conducted extensive sampling to identify, track and map oil in the water column and sediments over time as it attenuated. Air, water, sediment and oil samples were collected from the sea floor to the surface and from the source to the shoreline.

The amount of water chemistry data collected was unprecedented in the history of marine science. That investigative effort involved over 25 vessels that conducted more than 125 cruises that sampled over 5,000 locations yielding over 17,000 water and sediment samples, over 30,000 chemical analyses and more than 3,500 ecotoxicity tests.

Those efforts detected no Macondo oil in Tampa Bay. The report of findings from this Operational Science Advisory Team shows that there was no Macondo oil in the bay or the Florida shelf adjacent to it.

BP is committed to supporting responsible science and long-term independent study of the gulf ecosystem. We have committed to pay $500 million over 10 years to support independent research through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

In addition to the $26 billion we have spent in claims payments and response and clean-up costs, BP has also paid around $1 billion to date to support the cooperative Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, which evaluates potential injuries and restoration options.

Collectively this work is making the gulf one of the most studied ecosystems in history.

Geoff Morrell, BP vice president, Houston

Obama's options in Syria | Aug. 28, commentary

United Nations useless

The "U" in United Nations should stand for "useless." Time after time, it has not taken action when obviously action was necessary. The situation in Syria is the latest example of doing nothing. If we wait for a coalition when dealing with Russia and its Arab allies, nothing will ever be done.

The United Nations has a history of sanctions and threats that are ignored. Meanwhile, we pay scores of bureaucrats as part of our U.N. delegation. It's time we stop sponsoring this organization with our taxpayer money.

Don Niemann, Seminole

Schools say cheer uniforms too short Aug. 27

A return to respect

At a time when our social values are circling the bowl, it is refreshing to see someone stand up and voice their concern.

We have reached a point in society where amoral attitudes are being recognized and accepted by our youth — just look at the MTV awards show.

I can't believe these supposedly responsible parents would object to the concerns of the county to bring some modesty back in regard to the cheerleader uniforms.

The lesson is keep your modesty at all time, take responsibility for your behavior and always conduct yourself in a respectable way. Let's get back to that thinking and we may be well on our way to a more considerate and respectful nation.

John Masterson, Spring Hill

Going too far

The subject of acceptable school attire is once again front-page news. But have we gone too far this time?

Most high school dress code crackdowns have been in an effort to curb "indecent" attire. For the most part, the school's definition has mirrored the public's.

One example is the ubiquitous display of young men who wear their pants low enough that we are treated to a significant view of that day's underwear selection. Another is the prevalence of clearly inappropriate tops for young girls; the ones that feature tasteless or sexually suggestive sayings or innuendo.

And now schools want cheerleader uniforms lumped with these examples. Cheerleader uniforms are traditionally worn in class on game days to bolster team spirit and encourage classmates to support their varsity teams. Furthermore, they are designed and approved by school officials and are intended as an extension of the school's sports experience.

A school's remedy for the first two violations is the mandatory use of a belt for the guys and a return home to change for the girls. But the school's remedy to the cheerleaders is to cover their arms and legs while in class. Christine Johnson, a cheerleader's mother, makes the excellent point of questioning the school's hypocrisy of encouraging classmates to view her daughter in that attire during a game, but not in a classroom.

In the first two examples, the dress code violations are obvious and I believe would be supported by most people. But what, really, is the problem with cheerleaders' uniforms? Are they offensive? No. Are they tasteless? No.

If a bit more arm or leg visible in class because of a cheerleader's uniform is truly a violation, then this is a serious offense and worthy of great discussion and punishment, as I'm sure is happening — in Iran.

David Lewis, Clearwater

Inappropriate attire

It's about time Pinellas County Schools woke up and decided to ban cheerleader outfits in the classrooms. It is clearly inappropriate wear and an obvious distraction.

Again, it is the parents who are out of line. They should be 100 percent behind the school's dress code, not undermining the school's authority.

Marilyn Janssen, South Pasadena